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SB-1060 Postadoption contact: siblings of dependent children or wards.(2015-2016)

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SB1060:v93#DOCUMENT

Senate Bill No. 1060
CHAPTER 719

An act to amend Section 8616.5 of the Family Code, and to amend Sections 366.3, 727.3, and 16002 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to adoption.

[ Approved by Governor  September 27, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State  September 27, 2016. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1060, Leno. Postadoption contact: siblings of dependent children or wards.
Existing law provides that a minor may be adjudged a dependent child or a ward of the juvenile court under specified circumstances. Existing law authorizes the court to place a minor who has been removed from the custody of his or her parent or guardian in foster care, among other placements. Existing law allows, in an adoption proceeding, for continuing contact between the birth relatives and a child if a postadoption contact agreement is entered into voluntarily and is in the best interests of the child at the time the adoption petition is granted.
Existing law requires, if parental rights are terminated and the court orders a dependent child or ward to be placed for adoption, the county adoption agency or the State Department of Social Services to take specified steps, with exceptions, to facilitate ongoing sibling contact, including the encouragement of prospective adoptive parents to make a plan for facilitating postadoptive contact, as specified.
This bill would instead require the county placing agency, as part of the above steps, to the extent practicable, to convene a meeting with the child, the sibling or siblings of the child, the prospective adoptive parent or parents, and a facilitator for the purpose of deciding whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement. The bill would provide that the county placing agency is not required to convene a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement if specified circumstances occur. The bill would authorize the child to petition the court for an order requiring the county placing agency to convene a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement. The bill would provide that the meeting is not required to occur if the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that a postadoption sibling contact agreement or a meeting for the purpose of deciding whether to voluntarily execute such an agreement is contrary to the safety and well-being of the child and notes the determination in the court order. By requiring new duties on a county placing agency relating to meetings on postadoption sibling contact agreements, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Existing law requires the court, at least every 6 months, to review the status of a dependent child for whom the court has ordered parental rights terminated and who has been ordered placed for adoption.
This bill would require the court to inquire into the status of the development of a voluntary postadoption sibling contact agreement at the time of the first review hearing conducted pursuant to the above-described provision.
Existing law requires a juvenile court, in the case of a minor declared a ward and ordered to be placed in foster care, and where the minor has continuing involvement with his or her parents or legal guardians, to include in its order placing the minor in a permanent placement a specification of the nature and frequency of visiting arrangements with the parents or legal guardians.
This bill would expand this provision to also apply to visiting arrangements with siblings of the minor.
This bill would also make conforming changes to related provisions.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 8616.5 of the Family Code is amended to read:

8616.5.
 (a) The Legislature finds and declares that some adoptive children may benefit from either direct or indirect contact with birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents or any siblings, or an Indian tribe, after being adopted. Postadoption contact agreements are intended to ensure children of an achievable level of continuing contact when contact is beneficial to the children and the agreements are voluntarily executed by birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents or any siblings, or an Indian tribe, and adoptive parents. Nothing in this section requires all of the listed parties to participate in the development of a postadoption contact agreement in order for the agreement to be executed.
(b) (1) Nothing in the adoption laws of this state shall be construed to prevent the adopting parent or parents, the birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents or any siblings, or an Indian tribe, and the child from voluntarily executing a written agreement to permit continuing contact between the birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents or any siblings, or an Indian tribe, and the child if the agreement is found by the court to have been executed voluntarily and to be in the best interests of the child at the time the adoption petition is granted.
(2) The terms of any postadoption contact agreement executed under this section shall be limited to, but need not include, all of the following:
(A) Provisions for visitation between the child and a birth parent or parents and other birth relatives, including siblings, and the child’s Indian tribe if the case is governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. Sec. 1901 et seq.).
(B) Provisions for future contact between a birth parent or parents or other birth relatives, including siblings, or both, and the child or an adoptive parent, or both, and in cases governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act, the child’s Indian tribe.
(C) Provisions for the sharing of information about the child in the future.
(3) The terms of any postadoption contact agreement with birth relatives, including siblings, other than the child’s birth parent or parents shall be limited to the sharing of information about the child, unless the child has a preexisting relationship with the birth relative.
(c) At the time an adoption decree is entered pursuant to a petition filed pursuant to Section 8714, 8714.5, 8802, 8912, or 9000, the court entering the decree may grant postadoption privileges if an agreement for those privileges has been executed, including agreements executed pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 8620. The hearing to grant the adoption petition and issue an order of adoption may be continued as necessary to permit parties who are in the process of negotiating a postadoption agreement to reach a final agreement.
(d) The child who is the subject of the adoption petition shall be considered a party to the postadoption contact agreement. The written consent to the terms and conditions of the postadoption contact agreement and any subsequent modifications of the agreement by a child who is 12 years of age or older is a necessary condition to the granting of privileges regarding visitation, contact, or sharing of information about the child, unless the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the agreement, as written, is in the best interests of the child. Any child who has been found to come within Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or who is the subject of a petition for jurisdiction of the juvenile court under Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code shall be represented by an attorney for purposes of consent to the postadoption contact agreement.
(e) A postadoption contact agreement shall contain the following warnings in bold type:
(1) After the adoption petition has been granted by the court, the adoption cannot be set aside due to the failure of an adopting parent, a birth parent, a birth relative, including a sibling, an Indian tribe, or the child to follow the terms of this agreement or a later change to this agreement.
(2) A disagreement between the parties or litigation brought to enforce or modify the agreement shall not affect the validity of the adoption and shall not serve as a basis for orders affecting the custody of the child.
(3) A court will not act on a petition to change or enforce this agreement unless the petitioner has participated, or attempted to participate, in good faith in mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution proceedings to resolve the dispute.
(f) Upon the granting of the adoption petition and the issuing of the order of adoption of a child who is a dependent of the juvenile court, juvenile court dependency jurisdiction shall be terminated. Enforcement of the postadoption contact agreement shall be under the continuing jurisdiction of the court granting the petition of adoption. The court may not order compliance with the agreement absent a finding that the party seeking the enforcement participated, or attempted to participate, in good faith in mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution proceedings regarding the conflict, prior to the filing of the enforcement action, and that the enforcement is in the best interests of the child. Documentary evidence or offers of proof may serve as the basis for the court’s decision regarding enforcement. No testimony or evidentiary hearing shall be required. The court shall not order further investigation or evaluation by any public or private agency or individual absent a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child may be protected or advanced only by that inquiry and that the inquiry will not disturb the stability of the child’s home to the detriment of the child.
(g) The court may not award monetary damages as a result of the filing of the civil action pursuant to subdivision (e).
(h) A postadoption contact agreement may be modified or terminated only if either of the following occurs:
(1) All parties, including the child if the child is 12 years of age or older at the time of the requested termination or modification, have signed a modified postadoption contact agreement and the agreement is filed with the court that granted the petition of adoption.
(2) The court finds all of the following:
(A) The termination or modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.
(B) There has been a substantial change of circumstances since the original agreement was executed and approved by the court.
(C) The party seeking the termination or modification has participated, or attempted to participate, in good faith in mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution proceedings prior to seeking court approval of the proposed termination or modification.
Documentary evidence or offers of proof may serve as the basis for the court’s decision. No testimony or evidentiary hearing shall be required. The court shall not order further investigation or evaluation by any public or private agency or individual absent a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child may be protected or advanced only by that inquiry and that the inquiry will not disturb the stability of the child’s home to the detriment of the child.
(i) All costs and fees of mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution proceedings shall be borne by each party, excluding the child. All costs and fees of litigation shall be borne by the party filing the action to modify or enforce the agreement when no party has been found by the court as failing to comply with an existing postadoption contact agreement. Otherwise, a party, other than the child, found by the court as failing to comply without good cause with an existing agreement shall bear all the costs and fees of litigation.
(j) The Judicial Council shall adopt rules of court and forms for motions to enforce, terminate, or modify postadoption contact agreements.
(k) The court shall not set aside a decree of adoption, rescind a relinquishment, or modify an order to terminate parental rights or any other prior court order because of the failure of a birth parent, adoptive parent, birth relative, including a sibling, an Indian tribe, or the child to comply with any or all of the original terms of, or subsequent modifications to, the postadoption contact agreement, except as follows:
(1) Prior to issuing the order of adoption, in an adoption involving an Indian child, the court may, upon a petition of the birth parent, birth relative, including a sibling, or an Indian tribe, order the parties to engage in family mediation services for the purpose of reaching a postadoption contact agreement if the prospective adoptive parent fails to negotiate in good faith to execute a postadoption contact agreement, after having agreed to enter into negotiations, provided that the failure of the parties to reach an agreement is not in and of itself proof of bad faith.
(2) Prior to issuing the order of adoption, if the parties fail to negotiate in good faith to execute a postadoption contact agreement during the negotiations entered into pursuant to, and in accordance with, paragraph (1), the court may modify prior orders or issue new orders as necessary to ensure the best interest of the Indian child is met, including, but not limited to, requiring parties to engage in further family mediation services for the purpose of reaching a postadoption contact agreement, initiating guardianship proceeding in lieu of adoption, or authorizing a change of adoptive placement for the child.
(l) As used in this section, “sibling” means a person related to the identified child by blood, adoption, or affinity through a common legal or biological parent.

SEC. 2.

 Section 366.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

366.3.
 (a) If a juvenile court orders a permanent plan of adoption, tribal customary adoption, adoption of a nonminor dependent pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 366.31, or legal guardianship pursuant to Section 360 or 366.26, the court shall retain jurisdiction over the child or nonminor dependent until the child or nonminor dependent is adopted or the legal guardianship is established, except as provided for in Section 366.29 or, on and after January 1, 2012, Section 366.32. The status of the child or nonminor dependent shall be reviewed every six months to ensure that the adoption or legal guardianship is completed as expeditiously as possible. When the adoption of the child or nonminor dependent has been granted, or in the case of a tribal customary adoption, when the tribal customary adoption order has been afforded full faith and credit and the petition for adoption has been granted, the court shall terminate its jurisdiction over the child or nonminor dependent. Following establishment of a legal guardianship, the court may continue jurisdiction over the child as a dependent child of the juvenile court or may terminate its dependency jurisdiction and retain jurisdiction over the child as a ward of the legal guardianship, as authorized by Section 366.4. If, however, a relative of the child is appointed the legal guardian of the child and the child has been placed with the relative for at least six months, the court shall, except if the relative guardian objects, or upon a finding of exceptional circumstances, terminate its dependency jurisdiction and retain jurisdiction over the child as a ward of the guardianship, as authorized by Section 366.4. Following a termination of parental rights, the parent or parents shall not be a party to, or receive notice of, any subsequent proceedings regarding the child.
(b) (1) If the court has dismissed dependency jurisdiction following the establishment of a legal guardianship, or no dependency jurisdiction attached because of the granting of a legal guardianship pursuant to Section 360, and the legal guardianship is subsequently revoked or otherwise terminated, the county department of social services or welfare department shall notify the juvenile court of this fact. The court may vacate its previous order dismissing dependency jurisdiction over the child.
(2) Notwithstanding Section 1601 of the Probate Code, the proceedings to terminate a legal guardianship that has been granted pursuant to Section 360 or 366.26 shall be held either in the juvenile court that retains jurisdiction over the guardianship as authorized by Section 366.4 or the juvenile court in the county where the guardian and child currently reside, based on the best interests of the child, unless the termination is due to the emancipation or adoption of the child. The juvenile court having jurisdiction over the guardianship shall receive notice from the court in which the petition is filed within five calendar days of the filing. Prior to the hearing on a petition to terminate legal guardianship pursuant to this subdivision, the court shall order the county department of social services or welfare department having jurisdiction or jointly with the county department where the guardian and child currently reside to prepare a report, for the court’s consideration, that shall include an evaluation of whether the child could safely remain in, or be returned to, the legal guardian’s home, without terminating the legal guardianship, if services were provided to the child or legal guardian. If applicable, the report shall also identify recommended family maintenance or reunification services to maintain the legal guardianship and set forth a plan for providing those services. If the petition to terminate legal guardianship is granted, either juvenile court may resume dependency jurisdiction over the child, and may order the county department of social services or welfare department to develop a new permanent plan, which shall be presented to the court within 60 days of the termination. If no dependency jurisdiction has attached, the social worker shall make any investigation he or she deems necessary to determine whether the child may be within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, as provided in Section 328.
(3) Unless the parental rights of the child’s parent or parents have been terminated, they shall be notified that the legal guardianship has been revoked or terminated and shall be entitled to participate in the new permanency planning hearing. The court shall try to place the child in another permanent placement. At the hearing, the parents may be considered as custodians but the child shall not be returned to the parent or parents unless they prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that reunification is the best alternative for the child. The court may, if it is in the best interests of the child, order that reunification services again be provided to the parent or parents.
(c) If, following the establishment of a legal guardianship, the county welfare department becomes aware of changed circumstances that indicate adoption or, for an Indian child, tribal customary adoption, may be an appropriate plan for the child, the department shall so notify the court. The court may vacate its previous order dismissing dependency jurisdiction over the child and order that a hearing be held pursuant to Section 366.26 to determine whether adoption or continued legal guardianship is the most appropriate plan for the child. The hearing shall be held no later than 120 days from the date of the order. If the court orders that a hearing shall be held pursuant to Section 366.26, the court shall direct the agency supervising the child and the county adoption agency, or the State Department of Social Services if it is acting as an adoption agency, to prepare an assessment under subdivision (b) of Section 366.22.
(d) If the child or, on and after January 1, 2012, nonminor dependent is in a placement other than the home of a legal guardian and jurisdiction has not been dismissed, the status of the child shall be reviewed at least every six months. The review of the status of a child for whom the court has ordered parental rights terminated and who has been ordered placed for adoption shall be conducted by the court. The review of the status of a child or, on and after January 1, 2012, nonminor dependent for whom the court has not ordered parental rights terminated and who has not been ordered placed for adoption may be conducted by the court or an appropriate local agency. The court shall conduct the review under the following circumstances:
(1) Upon the request of the child’s parents or legal guardians.
(2) Upon the request of the child or, on and after January 1, 2012, nonminor dependent.
(3) It has been 12 months since a hearing held pursuant to Section 366.26 or an order that the child remain in foster care pursuant to Section 366.21, 366.22, 366.25, 366.26, or subdivision (h).
(4) It has been 12 months since a review was conducted by the court.
The court shall determine whether or not reasonable efforts to make and finalize a permanent placement for the child have been made.
(e) Except as provided in subdivision (g), at the review held every six months pursuant to subdivision (d), the reviewing body shall inquire about the progress being made to provide a permanent home for the child, shall consider the safety of the child, and shall determine all of the following:
(1) The continuing necessity for, and appropriateness of, the placement.
(2) Identification of individuals other than the child’s siblings who are important to a child who is 10 years of age or older and has been in out-of-home placement for six months or longer, and actions necessary to maintain the child’s relationship with those individuals, provided that those relationships are in the best interest of the child. The social worker shall ask every child who is 10 years of age or older and who has been in out-of-home placement for six months or longer to identify individuals other than the child’s siblings who are important to the child, and may ask any other child to provide that information, as appropriate. The social worker shall make efforts to identify other individuals who are important to the child, consistent with the child’s best interests.
(3) The continuing appropriateness and extent of compliance with the permanent plan for the child, including efforts to maintain relationships between a child who is 10 years of age or older and who has been in out-of-home placement for six months or longer and individuals who are important to the child and efforts to identify a prospective adoptive parent or legal guardian, including, but not limited to, child-specific recruitment efforts and listing on an adoption exchange.
(4) The extent of the agency’s compliance with the child welfare services case plan in making reasonable efforts either to return the child to the safe home of the parent or to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child. If the reviewing body determines that a second period of reunification services is in the child’s best interests, and that there is a significant likelihood of the child’s return to a safe home due to changed circumstances of the parent, pursuant to subdivision (f), the specific reunification services required to effect the child’s return to a safe home shall be described.
(5) Whether there should be any limitation on the right of the parent or guardian to make educational decisions or developmental services decisions for the child. That limitation shall be specifically addressed in the court order and may not exceed what is necessary to protect the child. If the court specifically limits the right of the parent or guardian to make educational decisions or developmental services decisions for the child, the court shall at the same time appoint a responsible adult to make educational decisions or developmental services decisions for the child pursuant to Section 361.
(6) The adequacy of services provided to the child. The court shall consider the progress in providing the information and documents to the child, as described in Section 391. The court shall also consider the need for, and progress in providing, the assistance and services described in Section 391.
(7) The extent of progress the parents or legal guardians have made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating placement in foster care.
(8) The likely date by which the child may be returned to, and safely maintained in, the home, placed for adoption, legal guardianship, placed with a fit and willing relative, or, for an Indian child, in consultation with the child’s tribe, placed for tribal customary adoption, or, if the child is 16 years of age or older, and no other permanent plan is appropriate at the time of the hearing, in another planned permanent living arrangement.
(9) Whether the child has any siblings under the court’s jurisdiction, and, if any siblings exist, all of the following:
(A) The nature of the relationship between the child and his or her siblings.
(B) The appropriateness of developing or maintaining the sibling relationships pursuant to Section 16002. At the first review conducted for a child for whom the court has ordered parental rights terminated and who has been ordered placed for adoption, the court shall inquire into the status of the development of a voluntary postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to subdivision (e) of Section 16002.
(C) If the siblings are not placed together in the same home, why the siblings are not placed together and what efforts are being made to place the siblings together, or why those efforts are not appropriate.
(D) If the siblings are not placed together, all of the following:
(i) The frequency and nature of the visits between the siblings.
(ii) If there are visits between the siblings, whether the visits are supervised or unsupervised. If the visits are supervised, a discussion of the reasons why the visits are supervised, and what needs to be accomplished in order for the visits to be unsupervised.
(iii) If there are visits between the siblings, a description of the location and length of the visits.
(iv) Any plan to increase visitation between the siblings.
(E) The impact of the sibling relationships on the child’s placement and planning for legal permanence.
The factors the court may consider as indicators of the nature of the child’s sibling relationships include, but are not limited to, whether the siblings were raised together in the same home, whether the siblings have shared significant common experiences or have existing close and strong bonds, whether either sibling expresses a desire to visit or live with his or her sibling, as applicable, and whether ongoing contact is in the child’s best emotional interests.
(10) For a child who is 14 years of age or older, and, effective January 1, 2012, for a nonminor dependent, the services needed to assist the child or nonminor dependent to make the transition from foster care to successful adulthood.
The reviewing body shall determine whether or not reasonable efforts to make and finalize a permanent placement for the child have been made.
Each licensed foster family agency shall submit reports for each child in its care, custody, and control to the court concerning the continuing appropriateness and extent of compliance with the child’s permanent plan, the extent of compliance with the case plan, and the type and adequacy of services provided to the child.
(f) Unless their parental rights have been permanently terminated, the parent or parents of the child are entitled to receive notice of, and participate in, those hearings. It shall be presumed that continued care is in the best interests of the child, unless the parent or parents prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that further efforts at reunification are the best alternative for the child. In those cases, the court may order that further reunification services to return the child to a safe home environment be provided to the parent or parents up to a period of six months, and family maintenance services, as needed for an additional six months in order to return the child to a safe home environment. On and after January 1, 2012, this subdivision shall not apply to the parents of a nonminor dependent.
(g) At the review conducted by the court and held at least every six months, regarding a child for whom the court has ordered parental rights terminated and who has been ordered placed for adoption, or, for an Indian child for whom parental rights are not being terminated and a tribal customary adoption is being considered, the county welfare department shall prepare and present to the court a report describing the following:
(1) The child’s present placement.
(2) The child’s current physical, mental, emotional, and educational status.
(3) If the child has not been placed with a prospective adoptive parent or guardian, identification of individuals, other than the child’s siblings, who are important to the child and actions necessary to maintain the child’s relationship with those individuals, provided that those relationships are in the best interest of the child. The agency shall ask every child who is 10 years of age or older to identify any individuals who are important to him or her, consistent with the child’s best interest, and may ask any child who is younger than 10 years of age to provide that information as appropriate. The agency shall make efforts to identify other individuals who are important to the child.
(4) Whether the child has been placed with a prospective adoptive parent or parents.
(5) Whether an adoptive placement agreement has been signed and filed.
(6) If the child has not been placed with a prospective adoptive parent or parents, the efforts made to identify an appropriate prospective adoptive parent or legal guardian, including, but not limited to, child-specific recruitment efforts and listing on an adoption exchange.
(7) Whether the final adoption order should include provisions for postadoptive sibling contact pursuant to Section 366.29.
(8) The progress of the search for an adoptive placement if one has not been identified.
(9) Any impediments to the adoption or the adoptive placement.
(10) The anticipated date by which the child will be adopted or placed in an adoptive home.
(11) The anticipated date by which an adoptive placement agreement will be signed.
(12) Recommendations for court orders that will assist in the placement of the child for adoption or in the finalization of the adoption.
The court shall determine whether or not reasonable efforts to make and finalize a permanent placement for the child have been made.
The court shall make appropriate orders to protect the stability of the child and to facilitate and expedite the permanent placement and adoption of the child.
(h) (1) At the review held pursuant to subdivision (d) for a child in foster care, the court shall consider all permanency planning options for the child including whether the child should be returned to the home of the parent, placed for adoption, or, for an Indian child, in consultation with the child’s tribe, placed for tribal customary adoption, or appointed a legal guardian, placed with a fit and willing relative, or, if compelling reasons exist for finding that none of the foregoing options are in the best interest of the child and the child is 16 years of age or older, whether the child should be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. The court shall order that a hearing be held pursuant to Section 366.26, unless it determines by clear and convincing evidence that there is a compelling reason for determining that a hearing held pursuant to Section 366.26 is not in the best interest of the child because the child is being returned to the home of the parent, the child is not a proper subject for adoption, or no one is willing to accept legal guardianship as of the hearing date. If the county adoption agency, or the department when it is acting as an adoption agency, has determined it is unlikely that the child will be adopted or one of the conditions described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 366.26 applies, that fact shall constitute a compelling reason for purposes of this subdivision. Only upon that determination may the court order that the child remain in foster care, without holding a hearing pursuant to Section 366.26. The court shall make factual findings identifying any barriers to achieving the permanent plan as of the hearing date. On and after January 1, 2012, the nonminor dependent’s legal status as an adult is in and of itself a compelling reason not to hold a hearing pursuant to Section 366.26.
(2) When the child is 16 years of age or older and in another planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall do all of the following:
(A) Ask the child about his or her desired permanency outcome.
(B) Make a judicial determination explaining why, as of the hearing date, another planned permanent living arrangement is the best permanency plan for the child.
(C) State for the record the compelling reason or reasons why it continues not to be in the best interest of the child to return home, be placed for adoption, be placed for tribal customary adoption in the case of an Indian child, be placed with a legal guardian, or be placed with a fit and willing relative.
(3) When the child is 16 years of age or older and is in another planned permanent living arrangement, the social study prepared for the hearing shall include a description of all of the following:
(A) The intensive and ongoing efforts to return the child to the home of the parent, place the child for adoption, or establish a legal guardianship, as appropriate.
(B) The steps taken to do both of the following:
(i) Ensure that the child’s care provider is following the reasonable and prudent parent standard.
(ii) Determine whether the child has regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age or developmentally appropriate activities, including consulting with the child about opportunities for the child to participate in those activities.
(4) When the child is under 16 years of age and has a permanent plan of return home, adoption, legal guardianship, or placement with a fit and willing relative, any barriers to achieving the permanent plan and the efforts made by the agency address those barriers.
(i) If, as authorized by subdivision (h), the court orders a hearing pursuant to Section 366.26, the court shall direct the agency supervising the child and the county adoption agency, or the State Department of Social Services when it is acting as an adoption agency, to prepare an assessment as provided for in subdivision (i) of Section 366.21 or subdivision (b) of Section 366.22. A hearing held pursuant to Section 366.26 shall be held no later than 120 days from the date of the 12-month review at which it is ordered, and at that hearing the court shall determine whether adoption, tribal customary adoption, legal guardianship, placement with a fit and willing relative, or, for a child 16 years of age or older, another planned permanent living arrangement is the most appropriate plan for the child. On and after January 1, 2012, a hearing pursuant to Section 366.26 shall not be ordered if the child is a nonminor dependent, unless the nonminor dependent is an Indian child and tribal customary adoption is recommended as the permanent plan. The court may order that a nonminor dependent who otherwise is eligible pursuant to Section 11403 remain in a planned, permanent living arrangement. At the request of the nonminor dependent who has an established relationship with an adult determined to be the nonminor dependent’s permanent connection, the court may order adoption of the nonminor dependent pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 366.31.
(j) The reviews conducted pursuant to subdivision (a) or (d) may be conducted earlier than every six months if the court determines that an earlier review is in the best interests of the child or as court rules prescribe.

SEC. 3.

 Section 727.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

727.3.
 The purpose of this section is to provide a means to monitor the safety and well-being of every minor in foster care who has been declared a ward of the juvenile court pursuant to Section 601 or 602 and to ensure that everything reasonably possible is done to facilitate the safe and early return of the minor to his or her own home or to establish an alternative permanent plan for the minor.
(a) (1) For every minor declared a ward and ordered to be placed in foster care, a permanency planning hearing shall be conducted within 12 months of the date the minor entered foster care, as defined in paragraph (4) of subdivision (d) of Section 727.4. Subsequent permanency planning hearings shall be conducted periodically, but no less frequently than once every 12 months thereafter during the period of placement. It shall be the duty of the probation officer to prepare a written social study report including an updated case plan and a recommendation for a permanent plan, pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 706.5, and submit the report to the court prior to each permanency planning hearing, pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 727.4.
(2) Prior to any permanency planning hearing involving a minor in the physical custody of a community care facility or foster family agency, the facility or agency may file with the court a report containing its recommendations, in addition to the probation officer’s social study. Prior to any permanency planning hearing involving the physical custody of a foster parent, relative caregiver, preadoptive parent, or legal guardian, that person may present to the court a report containing his or her recommendations. The court shall consider all reports and recommendations filed pursuant to this subdivision.
(3) If the minor has a continuing involvement with his or her parents or legal guardians, the parents or legal guardians shall be involved in the planning for a permanent placement. The court order placing the minor in a permanent placement shall include a specification of the nature and frequency of visiting arrangements with the parents or legal guardians and, if any, the siblings.
(4) At each permanency planning hearing, the court shall order a permanent plan for the minor, as described in subdivision (b). The court shall also make findings, as described in subdivision (e) of Section 727.2. In the case of a minor who has reached 16 years of age or older, the court shall, in addition, determine the services needed to assist the minor to make the transition from foster care to successful adulthood. The court shall make all of these determinations on a case-by-case basis and make reference to the probation officer’s report, the case plan, or other evidence relied upon in making its decisions.
(5) When the minor is 16 years of age or older, and is in another planned permanent living arrangement, the court, at each permanency planning hearing, shall do all of the following:
(A) Ask the minor about his or her desired permanency outcome.
(B) Make a judicial determination explaining why, as of the hearing date, another planned permanent living arrangement is the best permanency plan for the minor.
(C) State for the record the compelling reason or reasons why it continues not to be in the best interest of the minor to return home, be placed for adoption, be placed with a legal guardian, or be placed with a fit and willing relative.
(b) At all permanency planning hearings, the court shall determine the permanent plan for the minor. The court shall order one of the following permanent plans, in order of priority:
(1) Return of the minor to the physical custody of the parent or legal guardian. After considering the admissible and relevant evidence, the court shall order the return of the minor to the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian unless:
(A) Reunification services were not offered, pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 727.2.
(B) The court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the return of the minor to his or her parent or legal guardian would create a substantial risk of detriment to the safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being of the minor. The probation department shall have the burden of establishing that detriment. In making its determination, the court shall review and consider the social study report and recommendations pursuant to Section 706.5, the report and recommendations of any child advocate appointed for the minor in the case, and any other reports submitted pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a), and shall consider the efforts or progress, or both, demonstrated by the minor and family and the extent to which the minor availed himself or herself of the services provided.
(2) Order that the permanent plan for the minor will be to return the minor to the physical custody of the parent or legal guardian, order further reunification services to be provided to the minor and his or her parent or legal guardian for a period not to exceed six months and continue the case for up to six months for a subsequent permanency planning hearing, provided that the subsequent hearing shall occur within 18 months of the date the minor was originally taken from the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian. The court shall continue the case only if it finds that there is a substantial probability that the minor will be returned to the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian and safely maintained in the home within the extended period of time or that reasonable services have not been provided to the parent or guardian. For purposes of this section, in order to find that there is a substantial probability that the minor will be returned to the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian, the court shall be required to find that the minor and his or her parent or legal guardian have demonstrated the capacity and ability to complete the objectives of the case plan.
The court shall inform the parent or legal guardian that if the minor cannot be returned home by the next permanency planning hearing, a proceeding pursuant to Section 727.31 may be initiated.
The court shall not continue the case for further reunification services if it has been 18 months or more since the date the minor was originally taken from the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian.
(3) Identify adoption as the permanent plan and order that a hearing be held within 120 days, pursuant to the procedures described in Section 727.31. The court shall only set a hearing pursuant to Section 727.31 if there is clear and convincing evidence that reasonable services have been provided or offered to the parents. When the court sets a hearing pursuant to Section 727.31, it shall order that an adoption assessment report be prepared, pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 727.31.
(4) Order a legal guardianship, pursuant to procedures described in subdivisions (c) to (f), inclusive, of Section 728.
(5) Place the minor with a fit and willing relative. “Placement with a fit and willing relative” means placing the minor with an appropriate approved relative who is willing to provide a permanent and stable home for the minor, but is unable or unwilling to become the legal guardian. When a minor is placed with a fit and willing relative, the court may authorize the relative to provide the same legal consent for the minor’s medical, surgical, and dental care, and education as the custodial parent of the minor.
(6) (A) If he or she is 16 years of age or older, place the minor in another planned permanent living arrangement. For purposes of this section, “planned permanent living arrangement” means any permanent living arrangement described in Section 11402 that is ordered by the court for a minor 16 years of age or older when there is a compelling reason or reasons to determine that it is not in the best interest of the minor to have any permanent plan listed in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive. These plans include, but are not limited to, placement in a specific, identified foster family home, program, or facility on a permanent basis, or placement in a transitional housing placement facility. When the court places a minor in a planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall specify the goal of the placement, which may include, but shall not be limited to, return home, emancipation, guardianship, or permanent placement with a relative.
The court shall only order that the minor remain in a planned permanent living arrangement if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence, based upon the evidence already presented to it, that there is a compelling reason, as defined in subdivision (c), for determining that a plan of termination of parental rights and adoption is not in the best interest of the minor.
(B) If the minor is under 16 years of age and the court finds by clear and convincing evidence, based upon the evidence already presented to it, that there is a compelling reason, as defined in subdivision (c), for determining that a plan of termination of parental rights and adoption is not in the best interest of the minor as of the hearing date, the court shall order the minor to remain in a foster care placement with a permanent plan of return home, adoption, legal guardianship, or placement with a fit and willing relative, as appropriate. The court shall make factual findings identifying any barriers to achieving the permanent plan as of the hearing date.
(c) A compelling reason for determining that a plan of termination of parental rights and adoption is not in the best interest of the minor is any of the following:
(1) Documentation by the probation department that adoption is not in the best interest of the minor and is not an appropriate permanency goal. That documentation may include, but is not limited to, documentation that:
(A) The minor is 12 years of age or older and objects to termination of parental rights.
(B) The minor is 17 years of age or older and specifically requests that transition to independent living with the identification of a caring adult to serve as a lifelong connection be established as his or her permanent plan. On and after January 1, 2012, this includes a minor who requests that his or her transitional independent living case plan include modification of his or her jurisdiction to that of dependency jurisdiction pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 607.2 or subdivision (i) of Section 727.2, or to that of transition jurisdiction pursuant to Section 450, in order to be eligible as a nonminor dependent for the extended benefits pursuant to Section 11403.
(C) The parent or guardian and the minor have a significant bond, but the parent or guardian is unable to care for the minor because of an emotional or physical disability, and the minor’s caregiver has committed to raising the minor to the age of majority and facilitating visitation with the disabled parent or guardian.
(D) The minor agrees to continued placement in a residential treatment facility that provides services specifically designed to address the minor’s treatment needs, and the minor’s needs could not be served by a less restrictive placement.
The probation department’s recommendation that adoption is not in the best interest of the minor shall be based on the present family circumstances of the minor and shall not preclude a different recommendation at a later date if the minor’s family circumstances change.
(2) Documentation by the probation department that no grounds exist to file for termination of parental rights.
(3) Documentation by the probation department that the minor is an unaccompanied refugee minor, or there are international legal obligations or foreign policy reasons that would preclude terminating parental rights.
(4) A finding by the court that the probation department was required to make reasonable efforts to reunify the minor with the family pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 727.2, and did not make those efforts.
(5) Documentation by the probation department that the minor is living with a relative who is unable or unwilling to adopt the minor because of exceptional circumstances that do not include an unwillingness to accept legal or financial responsibility for the minor, but who is willing to provide, and capable of providing, the minor with a stable and permanent home environment, and the removal of the minor from the physical custody of his or her relative would be detrimental to the minor’s emotional well-being.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the ability of a parent to voluntarily relinquish his or her child to the State Department of Social Services when it is acting as an adoption agency or to a county adoption agency at any time while the minor is a ward of the juvenile court if the department or county adoption agency is willing to accept the relinquishment.
(e) Any change in the permanent plan of a minor placed with a fit and willing relative or in a planned permanent living arrangement shall be made only by order of the court pursuant to a petition filed in accordance with Section 778 or at a regularly scheduled and noticed status review hearing or permanency planning hearing. Any change in the permanent plan of a minor placed in a guardianship shall be made only by order of the court pursuant to a motion filed in accordance with Section 728.

SEC. 4.

 Section 16002 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

16002.
 (a) (1) It is the intent of the Legislature to maintain the continuity of the family unit, and ensure the preservation and strengthening of the child’s family ties by ensuring that when siblings have been removed from their home, either as a group on one occurrence or individually on separate occurrences, the siblings will be placed in foster care together, unless it has been determined that placement together is contrary to the safety or well-being of any sibling. The Legislature recognizes that in order to ensure the placement of a sibling group in the same foster care placement, placement resources need to be expanded.
(2) It is also the intent of the Legislature to preserve and strengthen a child’s sibling relationship so that when a child has been removed from his or her home and he or she has a sibling or siblings who remain in the custody of a mutual parent subject to the court’s jurisdiction, the court has the authority to develop a visitation plan for the siblings, unless it has been determined that visitation is contrary to the safety or well-being of any sibling.
(b) The responsible local agency shall make a diligent effort in all out-of-home placements of dependent children and wards in foster care, including those with relatives, to place siblings together in the same placement, and to develop and maintain sibling relationships. If siblings are not placed together in the same home, the social worker or probation officer shall explain why the siblings are not placed together and what efforts he or she is making to place the siblings together or why making those efforts would be contrary to the safety and well-being of any of the siblings. When placement of siblings together in the same home is not possible, a diligent effort shall be made, and a case plan prepared, to provide for ongoing and frequent interaction among siblings until family reunification is achieved, or, if parental rights are terminated, as part of developing the permanent plan for the child. If the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that sibling interaction is contrary to the safety and well-being of any of the siblings, the reasons for the determination shall be noted in the court order, and interaction shall be suspended.
(c) When there has been a judicial suspension of sibling interaction, the reasons for the suspension shall be reviewed at each periodic review hearing pursuant to Section 366 or 727.3. In order for the suspension to continue, the court shall make a renewed finding that sibling interaction is contrary to the safety or well-being of either child. When the court determines that sibling interaction can be safely resumed, that determination shall be noted in the court order and the case plan shall be revised to provide for sibling interaction.
(d) If the case plan for the child has provisions for sibling interaction, the child, or his or her parent or legal guardian, shall have the right to comment on those provisions. If a person wishes to assert a sibling relationship with a dependent child or ward, he or she may file a petition in the juvenile court having jurisdiction over the dependent child pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 388 or the ward in foster care pursuant to Section 778.
(e) If parental rights are terminated and the court orders a dependent child or ward to be placed for adoption, the county adoption agency or the State Department of Social Services shall take all of the following steps to facilitate ongoing sibling contact, except in those cases provided in subdivision (b) where the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that sibling interaction is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child:
(1) Include in training provided to prospective adoptive parents information about the importance of sibling relationships to the adopted child and counseling on methods for maintaining sibling relationships.
(2) Provide prospective adoptive parents with information about siblings of the child, except the address where the siblings of the children reside. However, this address may be disclosed by court order for good cause shown.
(3) (A) To the extent practicable, the county placing agency shall convene a meeting with the child, the sibling or siblings of the child, the prospective adoptive parent or parents, and a facilitator for the purpose of deciding whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code on a date after termination of parental rights and prior to finalization of the adoption. The county placing agency may comply with the requirements of this paragraph by allowing a nonprofit organization authorized to provide permanency placement and postadoption mediation for adoptive and birth families to facilitate the meeting and develop the agreement.
(B) The county placing agency is not required to convene a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code in either of the following circumstances:
(i) The county placing agency determines that such a meeting or postadoption sibling contact agreement would be contrary to the safety and well-being of the child.
(ii) The child requests that a meeting shall not occur.
(C) The child may petition the court for an order requiring the county placing agency to convene a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code. If the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that a postadoption sibling contact agreement or a meeting for the purpose of deciding whether to voluntarily execute such an agreement is contrary to the safety and well-being of the child, the reasons for the determination shall be noted in the court order, and the meeting is not required to occur.
(D) Counsel to the child and counsel to the siblings who are dependents of the court shall be notified of, and may attend, both the meeting and the hearing described in this paragraph.
(E) This paragraph shall not require attendance by a child, sibling, or other party at a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code if the child, sibling, or other party cannot be located or does not wish to attend the meeting. This paragraph shall not prohibit a county placing agency from convening a meeting if not all of the parties are secured to attend.
(f) Information regarding sibling interaction, contact, or visitation that has been authorized or ordered by the court shall be provided to the foster parent, relative caretaker, or legal guardian of the child as soon as possible after the court order is made, in order to facilitate the interaction, contact, or visitation.
(g) As used in this section, “sibling” means a person related to the identified child by blood, adoption, or affinity through a common legal or biological parent.
(h) The court documentation on sibling placements required under this section shall not require the modification of existing court order forms until the Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS) is implemented on a statewide basis.

SEC. 5.

 To the extent that this act has an overall effect of increasing the costs already borne by a local agency for programs or levels of service mandated by the 2011 Realignment Legislation within the meaning of Section 36 of Article XIII of the California Constitution, it shall apply to local agencies only to the extent that the state provides annual funding for the cost increase. Any new program or higher level of service provided by a local agency pursuant to this act above the level for which funding has been provided shall not require a subvention of funds by the state nor otherwise be subject to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.